By the numbers: the missing months
There is a cave in a mountain in Northern Ireland where no one has dared go to for months. Only one man, one brave, handsome man who should as their policy give every occupant of such a cave a pay rise, Brett Schenker dares go near it. Inside this cave he finds a figure dressed in rags over a fire, in the flames burns hopes and ambitions and hopes that the poor figure had for the year ahead.
Brett: I come looking for the writer of By The Numbers…
Glenn: Heh…no one…no one’s called me that for a long time…
There is a cave in New Jersey. Buried deep inside it, a crystalline matrix has been sitting since time immemorial. Finally, after eons, it cracks. Into the light steps a mysterious being. A man who they say can read limitless comics. At long last, he is unleashed upon the world once more.
Ray: Finally. Good thing I had digital comics in stasis.
Like in any industry, comic books and their companies listen most to one thing and that’s your money! What does your money tell them? What does it tell us as fans? What series do people say they adore but can’t seem to catch a break and what books to people hate that sell out? What are the trends? What looks good? What looks rough?
All these questions and more will be answered here, every month in ‘By The Numbers’ by comic writers, editors and fans, Glenn Matchett and Ray Goldfield.
Glenn Matchett is a comic writer and editor. He’s worked in the industry for many years but grew up reading comics. He’s had work published with various small press publishers and has is own comic now available on Comixology in Sparks: The Way I Was from Yellow Bear Comics! During the whole Covid mess, Glenn lost his sanity 2020 times!
Ray Goldfield is a fan of comic books for going on 25 years, starting with the death of Superman. He is a writer and editor and has released his first novel. Ray also does a weekly roundup of DC comic reviews for website Geekdad and they’re brilliantly entertaining. He was largely uneffected by quarentine as he is in fact a sentiant escaped computer from DC Comics.
Sorry about the lack of images folks. I’m out of practive and it took me ages to get it into this state. Next article should be back to normal. I also hate new WordPress. HATES IT.
Glenn: Well its been a hot minute folks but we’re back and since *looks outside to see fire is raining down* that’s going on, its time for the long awaited return of By The Numbers. Since it has been a while we’re going to treat you to not one but TWO articles that will go verly close together (statement not legally binding). In this first one, we’re going to look at the missing months, the ones where the comic industry started to fire up again after Covid ruined everything for everyone. We sadly don’t have actual numbers but we have rankings so we’ll have to surmise for now. Even though they are no longer distributing through Diamond, DC comics are included. How much their new distribution model makes? Who knows?! It’s like the wild west but instead of cowboys we have confusion and instead of indians we have indigestion…
Ray: So, needless to say, we’re back but comics are definitely not what they were. For the first time, we have one of the major comic companies not distributing through Diamond. Will others follow? Maybe, especially with some making big shifts towards the bookstore market. Some companies resumed a full schedule relatively quickly, like DC and Boom. Others, like Marvel and Valiant, have yet to rebound fully even in September. This has been a wild and uncertain year, but it does feel like comics have overall rebounded and may come out of this a healthier, more diversified industry.
Glenn: Only 5 books this month as DC gets out of the gate before anyone else with resuming business. These books are issue 4 of Daphne Byrne, issue 20 of Dreaming, Batman Giant 4 and reprints of Batman 89 and Nightwing 70. Not much to say here except its a good sign that one of the Hill House books not written by Joe Hill himself outselling the much more historical and prestigious Sandman book is something to take note of. We’ll likely not see any new Hill House material for a while but DC will be eager for more considering how they were doing prior to the end of the world and that#s without the juicy, juicy collection sales to come.
Ray: This lineup of books was just DC testing the waters with their new distributors through Midtown Comics and DCBS, putting out a few low-stakes books without any of their heavy hitters. It seemed to go over well, although all these books have since concluded. The Hill House books were solid sellers, even the ones that didn’t have a-list creators attached. The Sandman Universe books struggled a bit more sales-wise and the line’s now been cut back to just G. Willow Wilson’s flagship title. As for the Batman Giant, these books have since been repurposed into digital-exclusive daily stories as DC continues to shake up its product line. The crazy thing is? This rollout happened only a month after the shutdown, when most comic book stores were still closed. The other companies didn’t start up again till late May, and so the only other books released this month were some digital-first Action Lab titles.
Glenn: Things start to get somewhat back to normal as we have nearly 100 comics chart this month as Marvel, Image and others start production themselves. Top book of this month is the 25th issue of Venom. Anniversary issues always do well and this is Marvel’s best selling ongoing but as we’re often reminded…Knull is coming. After this turned into a sequel to Absolute Carnage and continuing the build to The King In Black which will undoubtedly do tremendous business. The hype train very much starts here.
Ray: The first thing to remember about May is that while DC was the first company out of the gate, they didn’t unleash any of their top comics because this month was essentially still them testing the waters. They wanted to make sure as many stores as possible were open before they unleashed Punchline-mania on us again. So it’s not a surprise Marvel dominated up top, but I kind of suspect Venom might have won the day either way. This book is huge and as The King in Black ramps up, it’s only going to get bigger.
We don’t know the numbers, but Comichron is using Justice League #45 as the baseline and gives us an index for how many books each comic sold compared to it. Venom sold 2.83 Justice Leagues.
Glenn: Since everything is so slow to get going again, Amazing Spider-Man gets second place by name alone. Its been selling anywhere between 50-80k randomly so these overall sales for this chart are probably quite low but…its odd times. This is almost a month that won’t count but retailers will be taking what they can get and no matter how bad it is (and its bad) Amazing will sell steadily.
Ray: Amazing has one mini-event followed immediately by another in the coming months, so that should stop any attrition for now. But this run is really trudging along on name recognition alone.
Glenn: Highest selling DC book at 3 is the third issue of DC Unkillables. This has killed into a killer (get it? Get it?) franchise for DC to such an effect that Marvel wants Taylor to work his magic with them too for a similar post apocalyptic themed event. These mini’s aren’t going anywhere and Taylor might have the easiest/best gig in comics where he gets to write all the big icons at once but gets to do what he wants in little pocket side universes.
Ray: I think this is the combined sum of all their covers, which is pretty impressive. Unkillables didn’t sell the numbers of past DCeased comics, because it just featured some supporting players instead of the big guns, but this performance is more than enough to indicate we’ll be seeing future spin-offs as long as Taylor wants to write them.
Glenn: Next at 4 is the newest issue of Jason Aaron’s Avenger’s, another steady stellar which will give Marvel and retailers some consistency while everything tries to regain some semblance of normalcy.
Same with Marauders at 5, this was the highest selling X book outside of Hickman’s own so again no surprise to see it high while everything is on autopilot.
At 6 is the relaunch of Doctor Aphra, a fan favourite who continues to do well despite the fact she is entirely a creation of Marvel and has yet to appear in any outside media. By being able to add to the franchise in such a manner Marvel will be keeping the big wigs at Disney happy in times where every win counts.
Ray: Doctor Aphra had an odd roll-out, being released unexpectedly three weeks before its print release in digital for “May the Fourth”, so that may have blunted the sales a bit. Still, an original character doing this well is significant. How long before she makes her way into live action or animation?
Glenn: The Black Label Harley/Joker Criminal Sanity charts at 7. With Harleen over with and Birds Of Pray pushed back a bit, this is the default prestige Harley book this month. The character always performs well and Black Label has carved itself out a nice place for reliability for DC in these strange times.
Ray: This title has been besieged by delays for a while and was followed by a Secret Files issue in the coming months. We’ll see if the long waits between issues holds back the sales in coming months, but the names on the title are probably enough to guarantee good sales.
Glenn: Issues 44 and 45 of Justice League chart at 8 and 9 respectfully and although Snyder’s run is done the title has enough juice to keep it trucking along until the next big direction. There’s a metal crossover headed its way written by DC trusted hand Joshua Williamson on its way which will give it a new lease of life. For now its just another steady performer in a month with very little happening.
Ray: Yeah, this title has been in limbo for a while with decent but underhyped runs from Robert Venditti, Simon Spurrier, and Jeff Loveness. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the call-up to write the title long-term for the next run – there are probably a lot of relaunches coming soon.
Glenn: Final spot in the top ten is for Image’s Ludocrats which likely got here due to the fact it is co-written by Kieran Gillan who has had quite the success rate in small press recently. I’m not sure how well this sells compared to his other work but given where Justice League was prior to the pandemic I’d estimate 20-25k. This isn’t bad for a quirky book that’s also a miniseries.
Ray: This title was delayed a looooooooooong time and picked up a co-writer along the way. It’s definitely not a mainstream title, but Gillen’s name is likely enough to give it a sales boost. We’ll see how it holds up once people actually try to puzzle it out.
A trio of DC titles return at 11, 12, and 14 as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash all sell pretty close to each other. But they’re interrupted at #13 by the second issue of Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy, which indicates that title is probably going to sell in the 30K range for the run of its miniseries. That’s a well-deserved hit for her.
Glenn: Mirka is also drawing the upcoming Punchline one shot in a few months which will sell big and make her an even bigger name. She’s one of the best artists working today and I’m really happy to see her explode in popularity to this degree.
Ray: At #15, we randomly have a facsimile edition of DC Super Stars #17, which was the first appearance of Huntress. A significant issue, for sure, but not one you’d usually see in the top twenty. This makes me wonder just how low the overall orders were this month, and that’s not the only odd stuff.
Glenn: I’m guessing this is due to the movie since this comic would have been ordered when it came out. That’s a very different version of the character though so just seems to be a bit of an oddity.
Ray: After an issue of Vengeance of Vampirella and more orders of Daphne Byrne #4, we’ve got the launch of Rogue Planet #1 from Cullen Bunn. That’s an Oni book in the top 20. We’re certainly in crazy town now.
Glenn: Bunn;s name will definitely help this sell better than likely anything Oni has put out monthly for a while but yeah…its not a normal month for obvious reasons.
Ray: Maybe it’s the Diamond difference vs. a new distributor? After an issue of Red Sonja, we have a lot more DC books, including Harley Quinn, Basketful of Heads, Plunge, and another issue of Flash. I’m sure we’ll see the sales charts recenter themselves in the coming month, but right now the numbers are very odd.
Glenn: Stupid 2020, they’ve messed everything up!
Ray: Artists, Writers, and Artisans had the misfortune to start publication the week before the shutdown, and they’re also one of the first books to resume with a new #1. Year Zero, Ben Percy and Ramon Rosanos‘ zombie apocalypse thriller, debuts at #24 with sales that are probably in the 20K range. Aside from the JMS/Deodato book, this feels like the AWA title that’s the most set up for success.
Glenn: Percy has been building some solid name draw for himself and zombies always have a place in the market, especially for those missing Walking Dead so yeah this was likely an easy win for sure.
Ray: At #25, we have the next issue of Mirka Andolfo’s Unsacred, an amazing showing for an indie book from Ablaze and well above the levels of other DC Books like The Dollhouse Family, Suicide Squad, Lois Lane, Justice League Odyssey, Teen Titans, and Batman and the Outsiders – all of whom are likely hovering around the 20K range. It also beats one of Boom’s flagship books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
At this point, we’re seeing a lot of ongoing titles that were selling lower than the average – none of these would normally be in the top 100. DC titles like Batman Beyond, Hawkman, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and He Man and the Masters of the Multiverse, Boom books like King of Nowhere and Go Go Power Rangers, and lower-selling Image titles like Outer Darkness/Chew, Farmhand, and OutCast. Many of these had the misfortune of just starting before the shutdown, and they sell about 40% of Justice League. Surprisingly, at #37 we have the latest issue of The Goon from Albatross Comics, far higher than it normally would be. This is a title that’s always had a strong cult audience.
At #43 we have another new launch, the Aftershock Joe Harris thriller Disaster Inc. Aftershock has been struggling for a while, and this title sells about 1/3rd of Justice League. Pretty standard, and barely outselling the latest issue of Terry Moore’s creator-owned crossover Five Years from Abstract.
After a bunch of creator-owned titles like Deadly Class and Alienated, we have a new licensed launch from IDW – the cumbersomely-named Star Wars Adventures: Clone Wars Battle Tales. This sells about 25% of Justice League, which is about right for a title that’s geared towards collections. It’s five issues, which is on the long side for one of IDW’s trades.
Glenn: That might hold the record for title with the longest title right now so that counts for…something?
Ray: Aside from House of Whispers (cancelled) and some giants, the lowest-selling DC book this month is Red Hood: Outlaw at #55. The longevity of this title is somewhat impressive, and I’m most amazed that they’re keeping it going after Lobdell leaves in a few months.
Glenn: They’re rebranding it to just Red Hood so we’ll see how that affects the book…if at all. DC might be just keeping it rolling until we get whatever the heck is coming as we’re getting a lot of titles cancelled or in the middle of a bunch of short runs. Obviously the cancellation of 5G threw everything for a loop but something is coming and Red Hood will either be a victim of that or will get a relaunch with more of a strong link to the always popular Batman line.
Ray: At #59, just after the latest issue of the long-running Savage Dragon, we have the launch of the intriguing new Aftershock title Dead Day, about a world where a zombie apocalypse happens one day a year and lets people reunite with the dead. It sells 22% of Justice League, a low debut even from Aftershock. Shame – writer Ryan Parrot actually created something original here.
Glenn: Is it as sad as Coco? Remember meeeee….
Ray: At #66 is Our Fighting Forces Giant, which featured an Unknown Soldier story from Priest. This was later repurposed into a digital comic, where it probably found a much bigger audience.
Glenn…it’s official. Comics are healing. At #68, it’s Zombie Tramp #69! Only sells 17% of Justice League, but it sells 145% percent of our hearts.
Glenn: Why couldn’t it have been 69?! That would have been so perfect for Zombie Tramp and its unlikely to ever get this close again! Damn it! Damn it all to helllllll.
Ray: Vault was one of the only companies to keep publishing, releasing a few digital comics during April. They resumed print publication in May, with Sera and the Royal Stars #7 landing at #69. They seem to be a company that’s growing aggressively, so keep an eye on them.
Glenn: They’re low key putting out some high quality work too. Boom took a while before it exploded (pun very much intended) look for Vault to do the same in the next 5 years or so.
Ray: At #72, it’s time to get Rachel Bloom out of quarantine and strike up the band! It’s Grimm Fairy Tales #37!
Glenn: Oh Rachel Bloom joke no one either gets or finds funny except us, how I missed you.
Ray: #73 brings the latest low-selling Marvel Action title, Marvel Action Captain Marvel guest-starring Nadia Van Dyne. This was a really fun run by Sam Maggs and Sweeney Boo, but it didn’t make an impact in the direct market. Let’s hope IDW can get the word out there for the trades.
Glenn: I don’t think these books are really meant for the direct market and are bound to do better elsewhere. The book has just received some award buzz so it could be a dark horse.
Ray: After some low-selling Mignolaverse books and licensed properties, we get the 6th issue of the Image title Exorsisters at #76. This title has been on hiatus for a while, and the sales were so low that the creative team has apparently moved it to digital-exclusive. One of the biggest challenges for Image titles is production delays, as great titles can just get lost in the shuffle.
Ray: After some more low-selling creator-owned titles wrapping up their run soon at Dark Horse and Boom, we get to some odd entries. Titles like “Green Dante/Green Virgil One-Shot” from Aardvark-Vanaheim and “Cat-Sh*t #1” from Antarctic all sell less than 10% of Justice League, but sneak into the top 100 due to the odd times.
Glenn: I think as well unless a title has a big name attached, books like Exosisters depend on momentum and of course, the pandemic affected everyone’s wallet. People are more likely to keep Batman around than an original property if they’re cutting down…
Ray: I don’t even know what some of these books are towards the end! Exciting Comics! 21st Centurions! Storm Kids: Monica Bleue Werewolf Story! These are probably the titles we never saw because they didn’t make the top 500 in the Before Times. They all sell just over 5% of Justice League this month.
Glenn: Proof we’re indeed in the darkest timeline.
Ray: And at #91 this month, we have V-Card #4, a vampire thriller from Antarctic. No estimate on its relation to Justice League #45, but it’s the lowest-selling book on the charts on this very odd month.
Glenn: These companies can boast forever they made it into the top 100 one time. Who cares about the details.
Ray: On to June, when things might start looking a bit more normal.
Glenn: Wazzit June?
Things do seem a lot more normal because what’s more normal than a lot of Batman in the top ten? DC swept 9 of the top ten spots with 7 of those being Batman centric or related and one being Metal which is a event focused around…Batman. I sometimes wonder if DC just decided to set up a seperate publisher that just did Batman how much of the market share they would get…
Ray: Yeah, DC played it safe for April and May, but in June they showed just how powerful their lineup is and they absolutely dominated this month with some huge events. Look at the indexes here – Death Metal #1 sold more than 5x the index title of Justice League. Batman #92 sold 4x. Even in this market, we’re talking two titles that undoubtedly sold six figures, maybe more. So Snyder and Tynion can reach a sales level no one else can at the moment, clearly.
Glenn: So yeah, to no surprise the new event from superstars Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Dark Nights: Dark Metal the follow up to the other mega event from the same pair, Dark Nights: Metal is the best seller. We don’t have numbers but I wouldn’t be surprised if this did over 200k with ease. While Marvel has been limping along with Empyre, this event is here to show them how its done.
Second highest seller is Batman 92 which I believe has the first full appearance of new sensationally popular character Punchline. I think James Tynion is having one hell of a year (with more to come) and I think it’s benefiting this title hugely. The other issue released this month charts at 5 this month. I’m not sure if Batman is back over 100k on the regular but the Tynion run/new character hype and build to 100 are all bringing the title back to its previous dominance.
Ray: I believe Batman is definitely over 100K at the moment, and the odds are Batman #100 will do numbers that are almost never seen outside of megawatt event comics.
Glenn: At 3 is the Joker 80th anniversary which saw a multitude of top creators, variants and arguably their most popular villain. Its a winning formula and we’ll soon see that these anniversary issues are big winners for the company.
Ray: We knew Joker would be the top-selling of these, with both Snyder and Tynion contributing stories. Punchline’s origin also basically guaranteed this would be a huge hit, even at $10.
Glenn: Did I say soon? I meant right now! At 4 is the 80th anniversary for Catwoman, an iconic character, one of the most important female leads in comics and another issue jam packed with talent. Expect to see more of these…on these very charts even!
Ray: The stunning thing here is that Catwoman sold almost as many copies as Joker, probably right around the 100K mark based on the index. Without the same creative team pull or hit movie, what could explain this? Maybe ongoing hype from the wedding, or maybe the inclusion of iconic Catwoman writer Ed Brubaker, whose story with (REDACTED) was likely the most anticipated vault story of all time.
Glenn: King continuing his Batman/Catwoman saga kinda/sorta likely helped too.
Third 80th anniversary in a row for Green Lantern this time at 7. The characters heyday is gone but this is another packed issue that had the defining writer for the property Geoff Johns return which helped a great deal on its own no doubt. This issue also has the unfortunate distinction of having Denny O’Neil’s last new story in it.
Ray: This one clearly sold lower due to not having any Batman ties, but it also had almost every iconic GL writer save Grant Morrison, and a tribute to the late great Dwayne McDuffie. All of these one-shots have put together an amazing creative roster, and that goes a long way to get people to invest in an oversized special like this.
Glenn: At 7 is Batman: The Smile Killer, essentially the fourth issue of Batman: Killer Smile by the nightmare inducing team of Lemire and Sorrentino. I have a feeling this duo will be back for more of the same, especially with the pant wetting Gideon Falls coming to an end later this year.
Ray: At this point, the sales are getting a little low in the top ten – Smile Killer likely sold about 60K – but that’s still pretty good for a prestige one-shot. I don’t want to go in the clown barn, Glenn.
Glenn: That rascally Mr. Smiles just wants to be our friend.
Batman + nostalgia wins big at 8 with the first issue of Batman: The Adventures Continue which carries weight on the fact that its a continuation of one of the best animated series ever. This performance is especially impressive since this was digital first so the printed sales are essentially a bonus. I don’t think future issues will chart as high but it shows that people still adore this version of the character and for good reason.
Ray: This is undoubtedly the highest ranking ever for a digital first series. I believe this was supposed to be a six-issue miniseries (Twelve chapters digitally), but with the sales and critical response, there’ll be a lot of temptation to expand it. Bring on the animated Court of Owls, Punchline, and Mr. Bloom!
Glenn: I think we’ll get a lot more. There’s plenty of room pre-Return Of The Joker flashback to cram more stories in.
Batman finally takes a breather at 9 to let Thor carry the load for the launch of his new title written by current Marvel MVP, Donny Cates. Cates is Marvel’s biggest sales and quality asset combined right now so this is no surprise. If we had numbers, I’d guess this sold anywhere between 70-80kish. It’ll likely settle to just above where it was before under Aaron at high 30k-40k which is great in todays world.
Ray: Damn it, Donny Cates! Always ruining DC’s party.
Glenn: Last spot goes to Detective Comics which doesn’t usually chart this high but this issue was vaguely attached to the lead in to Joker War which launched properly next month. If a prelude to a tie in to an event can do this well, Joker War is going to be one to watch.
Ray: It’s a good sign for the upcoming Detective Comics #1027 mega-issue as well, as that should probably be one of the top books of the month.
Ray: Out of the top ten, the list is starting to look normal again, with mainstays like Immortal Hulk, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters, Justice League, Superman, The Green Lantern, and New Mutants. The standout, though, is Strange Adventures, which had the misfortune to launch right before the shutdown. But it’s held very well, landing at #12 and showing those classic King/Gerads legs.
Glenn: I don’t see why DC won’t just keep throwing King on projects like these. They sell well, they receive acclaim and get ton of awards before becoming evergreens in collections. Its a winning formula. No doubt Rorschach in a few months will be a top ten mainstay.
Ray: #19 brings us our first creator-owned title, as Spawn #307 keeps up the book’s streak. But I think its time on top will be coming to an end as Snyder and Tynion prep new creator-owned books like Department of Truth and Nocterra.
Glenn: We know Department Of Truth sold over 100k for issue one which would be the biggest Image launch in…quite some time. The fight is still in the giant I.
Ray: Empyre: Avengers lands at #21, selling less than a standard issue of Justice League, which has to bode poorly for the cosmic event that was rushed out the door by Marvel.
Glenn: Rushed out the exit just as fast too. ‘Don’t look at that…look at Sword Of X oooooo Sword Of X’
Ray: Lots of mainstays at this level, including The Batman’s Grave by Hitch and (REDACTED), Legion of Super-Heroes, Excalibur, Daredevil, two issues of Flash, Deadpool, and Action Comics. At #28 we have the final issue of Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as the stars of the two most successful DC crossovers in recent years have their own team-up. Dex-Starr Vs. Garfield when, DC and Boom?
Glenn: Yeah both of these weren’t that critical to the overall picture so its just a good sign of both books off shoot brands at the moment.
Ray: A pair of specials for popular DC titles at #31 and #32. First up is Batman Secret Files #2, which was a spotlight for the squad of assassins Joker hired in Tynion’s opening arc. This did have a Punchline cameo, but it wasn’t hyped up. Right below it is Flash Annual #3, which was a Captain Boomerang spotlight and a tie-in with Suicide Squad. Decent sales for oversized side stories.
Sandwiched by two issues of Wonder Woman, we have the Detective Comics #475 facsimile edition at #34. This was the iconic Joker story The Laughing Fish, so DC is getting some good mileage out of old comics here.
Glenn: One that is still referred to today and was adapted into one of the best B:TAS episodes so yeah…easy money.
Ray: Amid a bunch of mid-level DC books, we have the hit creator-owned book Undiscovered Country, returning from hiatus at #38. It’s probably still selling in the 20K/30K range, so that’s an unqualified hit for Image and the creative team.
Glenn: Absolutely and the trades and inevitable adaption will only help.
Ray: At #40 we have the debut of a new Image series, That Texas Blood. This hard-boiled western sells about 2/3rds of Justice League, putting it at around 20K or so. That’s a hit for Image, which is a bit of a surprise since the series got very little advance hype.
Glenn: Jason Phillips, long time colourist is the writer here so maybe his mere association with some well regarded Image classics (like Criminal) helped here?
Ray: Black Cat still hanging around at #42. Remember when it sold 300K back in the before times? In the long long ago? It’ll be relaunching in December with a King in Black tie-in.
Glenn: We knew it smelled like kitty litter. We’ll see how long it lasts beyond said tie-in.
Ray: Decorum returns from its long hiatus with a second issue selling .6 Justice Leagues at #48. The unexpected hiatus right after the first issue couldn’t have helped, but I think no Hickman creator-owned book will ever sell too well in singles.
Glenn: He has his own steady audience and his success with X-Men will help too.
Ray: The Marvel Snapshots launched right before the shutdown and are finally resuming now, starting with the Captain America one. It sells just over half of Justice League at #54, so likely under 20K. These flashback stories are still very much niche books, but they’ll make a good collection for evergreen Marvel stories spanning the eras.
Ablaze continues to rise pretty quickly as a new company, with their off-brand Conan title launching its second arc, “Red Nails” at #56. This is one of the ten highest-selling non-DC/Marvel books on the charts, so that’s pretty impressive for a company less than one year old.
Glenn: Abalaze seems to have stumbled on a formula that works and are doing better than companies that have been trying to get to this level for years and/or decades so fair play to them.
Ray: Amid a sea of mid-selling DC books at this level, we see some creator-owned mainstays like Die and The Once and Future – a double-dose of Gillen! They chart at #60 and #66 respectively, both selling in the 15K range most likely. Something is Killing the Children isn’t much lower, at #72.
#69 brings us the second installment of the Brian Azzarello demonic sex thriller Faithless. Heh. 69. Glenn, it did what Zombie Tramp couldn’t last month!
Glenn: I feel better about the synergy of the universe now.
Ray: At #71 is the second issue of Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey, selling .45 of Justice League. I’m a little puzzled by the low sales here, given that this is by the iconic creative team of Palmiotti and Conner. I would have expected this to be one of the biggest Black Label titles.
Glenn: Something isn’t adding up here. Maybe sharing the title with a polarizing movie hurt it? I have no doubt it’ll do well in collections.
Ray: The highest-selling ongoing AWA book, Resistance by JMS and Deodato, returns with its second issue at #74.
#73 brings us the launch of Adventureman by the crack creative team of Fraction and the Dodsons. I’m really confused by how this pulp adventure-themed superhero story from Image only did 2/3rds of That Texas Blood.
Glenn: Fraction has been MIA from the industry for a while. Maybe a lot of his drawing power is still too hard to determine for retailers to make a more solid commitment?
Ray: The Boys, one of Garth Ennis‘ longest-running titles, returns with a sequel/prequel, Dear Becky, from Dynamite at #75. I don’t think this franchise is likely to pick up too many new fans since it’s so continuity-deep, despite the ongoing TV series, but this is going to be another hit volume of the series in collections for Dynamite.
Glenn: Yeah this will be just the dedicated fan base coming back for more but it was always a decent seller for what it was. The Amazon Prime adaption is bringing a new audience in the collections so this one will more than earn its keep eventually.
Ray: As absurd crossovers go, Transformers vs. Terminator is holding up pretty well. After three months off, it returns at #79 and is the highest Dark Horse book and the highest IDW book on the charts.
Stephanie Phillips has been making her way around the comic book world over the last few months pre-shutdown, and now she makes her way over to Image. The historical pirate adventure A Man Among Ye lands at #83, with sales probably in the 12K range or so.
DC’s DC Classics line of affordable all-ages comics has an entry in the top 100, with the first issue of The Batman Adventures landing at #86. Similar to what the best-selling True Believers books did.
Glenn: Its almost like selling comics cheap to kids to get them addic…interested is a good idea or something.
Ray: Remember when DC announced a Brian Azzarello Birds of Prey series? And then it became a three issue Black Label series? And then it became a one-shot? And then it was delayed repeatedly? Well, it’s finally here as DC released it as a $9.99 comic and it charted with a thud at #87. Between this and the box office of the movie, I don’t think dark-and-edgy Birds of Prey is the future for the franchise.
Glenn: SO much weirdness here. Maybe this also damaged the momentum of the other Harley and the Birds mini because retailers thought THAT was THIS?
Ray: Remember Rick and Morty? They can go to hell! No, literally, Rick and Morty Go to Hell is at #90 from Oni.
Glenn: I do remember Rick and Morty. This is about the cat and mouse killing each other, right?
Ray: Sabrina: Something Wicked, the sequel to Kelly Thompson’s acclaimed mini, launched in March but almost no one got their hands on it in stores. So it charts again this month at #92, selling in the 10-12K range. Let’s hope it gets more eyes on it.
Glenn: Better than anything else Archie could manage I’d wager. This one had a weird roll out with the pandemic too so a lot of people may have opted to wait for trade.
Ray: A surprisingly low debut for Nailbiter Returns #1 at #95. Josh Williamson’s star has risen a lot since he sunset this comic in the last run, but it’s also a very firm continuation of the original with no real jumping on point. Maybe retailers just ordered like it was the next issue?
Glenn: Maybe a slight bump, hard to tell without numbers but this seemed like a cult hit and retailers likely weren’t expecting any surprises.
Superman Giant #3 charts at #97, as one of the last of this line to be released before DC changed them to digital stories.
#100 brings us the second issue of Year Zero, as AWA continues to try to find a foothold in this fast-changing market. The sales were likely roughly in the 8K range for this global zombie thriller.
Glenn: While everyone took a breather, AWA chugged along. Right now, top 100 is not too tricky to land but once the full machine gets really going…well…
A 7.99 Buffy one shot, To Every Generation charts at 101 from BOOM. This franchise seems to still be in far better shape than the Dark Horse days of old.
Ray: This one-shot was hyped as major for the Buffyverse, but the price tag probably offset any boost it would get.
Glenn: A novel adaption from 103 from IDW in Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties. This is charting relatively high for IDW based on King’s name alone no doubt. This will do very handsomely in collections also.
Ray: This is a pretty dense, complex story getting a ten-part adaptation, so I imagine it’ll sell a lot more in a full collection down the line.
Glenn: It seems that we’re getting vampire comics the same as we used to get zombie comics with another one at 104 in the form of Bleed Them Dry, a ninja based vampiric tale from Vault. This seems to be more targeted to a more specific fandom than some of Vault’s most popular books but is still delivering good numbers.
Ray: This one has kind of a hilarious hodgepodge concept – cyborg ninja vampires in the year 4000! – but Vault is rising fast as a company. I think they’re sort of becoming what Aftershock was trying to be.
Glenn: Next new book is the Last God sourcebook at 116 and I don’t think that’s too bad considering this isn’t a big hit for Black Label and is essentially just a bonus issue with some handbook type info.
Ray: This one is definitely geared towards completists and tabletop gaming nerds, but the main book is getting some buzz. This will probably be included in the collection as well.
Glenn: Right below it is the third Nightwing Annual at 117, perfectly standard for a Batman offshoot book written by a reliable creator.
Ray: Much lower than the main book, but this was a flashback story focusing on a one-off supporting character.
Glenn: Justin Jordon launches a new Image mini at 122 with Dead Body Road Bad Blood. His books always kind of sell around 11-15k and I would guess this is the same. Image seems to know what they’re getting when they green light Jordon’s books so no big surprised.
Ray: This is a sequel/anthology follow-up to a Jordan book from years ago, so that probably depressed the opening sales as well. As we saw with Nailbiter Returns, retailers tend to order cautiously for creator-owned revivals.
Glenn: There’s a new Locke & Key mini at 123 and given how well thought of the main series is plus the Netflix show I thought this would have done a little better. Still since the start, Locke & Key is a collection driver with multiple versions having been released by IDW so that’s where the sales here are no doubt with these single issue sales being a bonus.
Ray: Yeah, Locke and Key is a monster in collections, and this one will likely be no different, especially with the period-piece theme.
Glenn: Next new book is way down at 144 with Invader Zim Quaterly launching from Oni. I remember this cartoon from when I was in university which was no yesterday. I’m guessing it got the nostalgia relaunch? This will be only for the hardcore fans with Oni hoping to get some magic out of it like they do with Ralph and Murphy.
I think there must be some mistake with Wynd at 145. I mean this book has James Tynion, is all ages, is BOOM and has been universally praised prior and since release. Why is it so low?! There seems to be talk that the book was repurposed from an ogn so maybe retailers are holding out from that but still…this is puzzingly low.
Ray: This is really puzzling, but yeah – this was resolicted as a mini in a hurry. I imagine there will be reorders, and the eventual graphic novel will be huge. But remember – Tynion’s other all-ages property, The Backstagers, also struggled in singles.
The top ten debut last month for Ludocrats was definitely a fluke driven by Gillen’s name and the VERY low bar, as the second issue is down here at #149 selling .13 Justice Leagues. That’s VERY low.
#150 brings us a new #1, Grievling, from a small-press publisher named Clover. This is a new horror comic from Steve Niles, and that it’s doing in the same range as Image and Dynamite books is kind of impressive.
Glenn: Niles name carries some weight to it and this is an odd month.
Ray: #153 has the debut of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew, selling around the same as Grievling. Given the hype and controversy for this book, I would have expected much more. Not Kelly Thompson’s Nancy, me no care.
The latest AWA book, Old Haunts, launches at #154 with similar sales. This Mafia ghost story by Ollie Masters, Rob Williams and Lee Loughridge got the least hype of any launch book so far, so it’s not surprising it’s way down here.
Glenn: Williams name I thought might have been good for a few more units but he’s not at the rockstar level of sales as some of his peers are.
Ray: The new Ahoy comic, Ash & Thorn, is down at #157. This fantasy adventure about an elderly woman who finds out that she’s a magical chosen one was a change of pace for the company, but didn’t get much advance buzz despite good reviews.
The new publisher Behemoth, which launched in the middle of the pandemic without much hype, has their first launch titled Osiris Path at #165, selling .11 Justice Leagues.
Glenn: Same old, same old in some cases sadly. Some of these smaller publishers are going to find this to be an especially rough year.
Ray: Similar numbers for Storm Kids: Hyperbreed, the latest spinoff from niche publisher Storm King. These are selling alongside the levels of ongoing titles from bigger publishers like Sonata, Tartarus, and Doctor Tomorrow, so that’s not bad.
Source Point was one of the first indie publishers to resume publication, and their offbeat superhero comic Danger Devil launches at #176. They launched a lot of new #1s during this month.
Glenn: Maybe they were hoping to get some people picking up a new jumping on point while things were quiet?
Ray: More Rick and Morty at #185, with a one-shot based on the Council of Ricks. I still don’t know what a Rick or Morty is.
Glenn: I asked some cool kids the other day but they gave me a wedgie and took my lunch money.
Ray: Lady Zorro from American Mythology launches at #187. I wonder if it’s time to break out the Rachel Bloom here as well.
Glenn: You go Zorro.
Ray: A new Archie anthology, Geeks and Games, arrives at #188. These comics are an alternative to the digests for the direct market, printing only the original modern stories, but they don’t make much of an impact.
A new title, Deep Blue from Mythos, lands at #189. Seems to be a sci-fi comic about the last survivors of an AI apocalypse, and it sells. .07 Justice Leagues.
Glenn: We don’t need a prediction of our future Mythos.
Ray: A pair of Source Point one-shots, Classic Pulp Ellery Queen and Monstrous: See No Evil, are down at #192 and #193. Pretty standard for this company.
The numbers on After Realm Quarterly at #194 are pretty shocking. No wonder the brilliant Michael Avon Oeming norse fantasy is going to Kickstarter instead.
Another entry from Storm King, with John Carpenter’s Tales: Sci-Fi Vortex 2 at #196.
It’s a jump down to the next comic of note at #208, as the sci-fi thriller Zero Day Threat from Red 5 sells…well, we don’t know. At this point, the sales are below .05 Justice Leagues, but there’s no estimate from here on out.
Down at #214 we have Casper Spotlight: Ghostly Trio from American Mythology, as they continue to have the oddest library of books on the market.
The Grimm Fairy Tales 2020 Annual is down at #226. Strike up the band, Glenn!
Ray: They’ve been out of work since March, poor people.
Glenn: You never used to see Fantagraphics on this chart, but they’re at #231 with something called Psychodrama Illustrated. We’re seeing books on the chart that never used to make the top 500, so this is interesting and surreal.
#234 and #235 are the first two issues of Gutter Magic: Smoke and Mirrors, the sequel to Rich Douek’s urban fantasy adventure from Source Point, late of Kickstarter. Douek has gone on to much bigger properties at IDW.
The sci-fi one-shot Remnant from Source Point charts at #239. This one’s actually a hidden gem, so pick it up for $1.99 on Comixology. The same goes for the fantasy adventure Skylin.
The musical one-shot Holler from It’s Alive is at #240, as this small-press company continues to build its reputation as the home for offbeat books from cartoonists.
Another entry from It’s Alive at #242, Air War Stories. This $9.99 one-shot is illustrated by actual WW2 veteran and Golden Age comic artist Stan Glanzman.
Speaking of war, Black Hops: Hare Trigger One-Shot is at #245. Because war bunnies. It’s scary down here, Glenn.
Glenn: It says very specifically in our contact that the crazy shouldn’t start until 300!
Ray: The Catalyst Prime universe concludes for now with Catalyst Prime: Seven Days down at #246, undoubtedly the lowest-selling book Gail Simone has ever written. This won’t stop dozens of other publishers from trying to prove they can do with Kurt Busiek and Jeff Lemire did with analog superhero universes, though.
The Doctor Sleepless Manual from Avatar is at #247, another odd entry. This appears to be a spinoff from a Warren Ellis book.
#249, the last regular book on the charts this month, goes to…White Widow #4! Good for Red Giant, getting back in print. I wonder what spine-twisting pose White Widow got up to this month.
Glenn: It seems retailers have finally realized this isn’t a Marvel book.
Ray: And that’s the three missing months! Next up, we’ll look at July in a coming article, as the big publishers get back to publishing their top books. We’ll see who wins between the big events of Dark Nights: Death Metal and Empyre, and see how the return of Punchline fares as Joker War launches.
Who will rise? Who will fall? Find out next time, because we’re back from the dead at By the Numbers!
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